Concluding the Economic and Social Council’s two-day multi-stakeholder forum on science, technology and innovation, speakers today explored how cutting-edge research can help achieve crucial development targets, including building inclusive societies, combating climate change, engaging young people and protecting indigenous knowledge.
Delivering closing remarks, Council President Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said this year’s forum featured an impressive number of recommendations. “We have seen practical examples of what is possible when innovators bring their creativity and talent to bear on the Sustainable Development Goals,” she said, from leveraging quality education for decent work and economic growth to promoting equitable societies in a rapidly changing world. Also addressed were broader, cross-cutting issues, such as how to harness the potential of technology while minimizing its risks, she said.
Throughout the day, the forum convened five panel discussions on the potential of science, technology and innovation to propel the achievement of important social, environmental and economic outcomes.
During a morning session on youth engagement, participants considered the largely untapped potential of young people — including students, informal entrepreneurs and early-career scientists — to contribute to policymaking for science, technology and innovation. Speakers presented their work in promoting the engagement of young people, while emphasizing that today’s global challenges — and those that loom in the future — cannot be successfully tackled without the input of dynamic “digital natives” growing up around the globe.
Panellist Amollo Ambole, Africa Climate Change Leadership program policy fellow at Kenya’s University of Nairobi, noted that the median age in her country is 19. Against the backdrop of that massive youth bulge, she studies the many informal innovations emerging from young people. “We see this as an opportunity to understand the ways in which people provide for themselves,” she said. Because informal innovations are technically illegal, her team advocates for a more enabling regulatory framework to bring them into the formal economy.
Tia Hodges, Senior Program Officer at Citi Foundation, described its investments in financial inclusion and employment generation, as well as efforts to reimagine vibrant cities. Underlining the enormous potential of young people — who are digital natives — to solve global development challenges, she outlined the work of the Citi Co-Lab initiative and its Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which empowers young people to use their creativity to solve problems in their own communities.
In an afternoon discussion, panellists from Government and civil society described ways that science, technology and innovation can be harnessed to mitigate the increasingly severe impacts of climate change. Signe Ratso, Deputy Director General for “Research and Innovation”, European Commission, said the bloc aims to achieve total carbon neutrality by 2050 — a goal that no country or region can meet alone. Noting that the European Union has pledged that 35 per cent of its investments will be related to combating climate change, she said its initiatives support sustainable agriculture, food systems, decarbonized fuels and bio-industries, among other things.
Seth Schultz, Special Adviser to the Global Covenant of Mayors on Science and Innovation and Founder/CEO of Urban Breakthroughs, recounted his organization’s work to mobilize cities, local leaders and mayors to tackle the threat of climate change. As mayors still lack the information and tools needed to fight back, they formed the Global Covenant of Mayors, which empowers more than 9,000 city leaders from around the globe to use research and technology to address climate change.
Also taking part in that discussion, Rwanda’s representative emphasized that developing countries must be ready to capitalize on new technologies. For example, she said, scientists in Rwanda recently joined forces with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to launch the first-ever African Air Quality and Climate Lab, which is able to sense the sources and levels of greenhouse gasses as they are released. As a result, policymakers and scientists are learning more about the nature of the threat and how to combat it.
The forum also convened panel discussions on the themes “Science, technology and innovation for inclusive and equitable societies”; “Linking science, technology and innovation of indigenous peoples, culture and traditional knowledge, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”; and “Supporting the implementation of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism — the way forward for joint action”.
In addition, the founders of several youth-led community-level organizations made presentations about their work, while A Min Tjoa (Austria), Chair of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development, delivered a video message outlining the Commission’s recently-concluded twenty-second session.
ANNE K. RWEYORA, Smart Havens Africa (Uganda), presenting “A Roof, a Skill and Market for Women”, said she began the organization to provide a clear, sustainable and independent pathway to homeownership for women. The group — which already has a 400-person waitlist — builds durable homes out of eco-friendly brick, which also helps to protect the environment, she said.
FAKHIRA NAJIB, Broad Class — Listen to Learn (Pakistan) said her organization provides daily radio broadcast lessons as well as basic literacy and life skills across Pakistan, where 2.5 million — mostly girls — are out of school. In the context of a society where education is often seen as a luxury, the group benefits more than 200,000 children and teachers directly and reaches millions.
PRINCE AGBATA, Coliba Recycling (Ghana), described the case of an HIV-positive, diabetic Ghanaian woman who collects landfill waste to make just $12 per day. His group, active in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, seeks to bring such women out of the shadows and enable them to engage in formal recycling programmes that pay a living wage.
The forum then held the first panel discussion of the day, on the theme “A Brighter Future — Youth, Innovation Ecosystems, and Development”. Moderated by Heide Hackmann (South Africa), member of the advisory group of 10 experts to support the Technology Facilitation Mechanism and Chief Executive Officer, International Science Council, it featured three panellists: Khalisah Zulkefli, biochemist, University of Melbourne, Australia; Amollo Ambole, Africa Climate Change Leadership Program policy fellow, University of Nairobi, Kenya; and Tia Hodges, Senior Program Officer, Citi Foundation.
Ms. HACKMAN said people across the globe look to the leaders of tomorrow as a force for positive development. For many working in the field of science, technology and innovation, providing support to early-career scientists is a priority. “We’re here to ask if we can do better” in proactively engaging such young people in planning and policymaking, she said, noting that they should be involved in strategies for building capacity and the promotion of healthy innovation ecosystems for the future. She asked the panellists to consider how early-career scientists and innovators can become more involved in policymaking; what barriers prevent such involvement; how their access to critical resources can be improved; and to make recommendations on those issues.
Ms. ZULKEFLI emphasized that knowledge is the currency of the future. Underlining the importance of developing a greater systemic awareness of the importance of knowledge, she called for an overhaul of science education that would provide more platforms to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into educational curricula. Such strategies would also help build and enrich the capacities of the younger generation of innovators, helping them to adapt to the changing global technology landscape. Describing the limited platforms and avenues of meaningful exchange as an obstacle for young scientists to get involved in policymaking, she cited several initiatives — such as Australia’s “Science Meets Parliament” programme — aimed at reversing that trend.
Ms. AMBOLE, noting that Kenya’s median age is 19 and that the country has a large youth bulge, described her work studying the informal innovations emerging from young people. “We see this as an opportunity to understand the ways in which people provide for themselves,” she said. However, such informal programmes are technically illegal and present challenges for the Government. In that context, her team advocates for a multi-stakeholder framework that uses a comparative perspective to create an enabling regulatory policy framework, bringing informal innovations into the formal economy.
Ms. HODGES described Citi Group’s work to invest in financial inclusion, generate employment opportunities and reimagine vibrant cities. Believing that young people — who are digital natives — have enormous potential, Citi Group is a strong supporter of youth employment, mentoring and civil engagement. Among other programmes, it has established the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, empowering young people to use their creativity to solve problems in their own communities. Meanwhile, its Citi Co-Lab initiative enables young people to help resolve the world’s most pressing challenges, including in the context of the 2030 Agenda. Among several recommendations, she called for efforts to provide seed capital for young people’s work and for more attention to protecting their intellectual property rights.
In the ensuing discussion, delegates and stakeholder representatives seconded the panellists’ view that more young people should be engaged in policymaking related to science, technology and innovation. Several also described efforts — at the national, subnational or corporate level — to accelerate such critical engagement.
The representative of Indonesia agreed that youth are an integral part of efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, including as communicators. Among other recommendations, she called for efforts to improve the quality of and access to education; facilitate youth inclusion in policy formulation; share best practices; and duplicate success stories. She outlined various policies put in place in Indonesia to support those goals.
A representative of France, noting that the 2019 meeting of the “Group of Seven” (G-7) countries will be held in France, described her work to drive a conversation on “youth and digital disruptions” ahead of that high-level gathering.
A representative of the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies at Montclair State University (United States) described efforts to improve science literacy among non-science major students. Among the programme’s goals are increasing diversity and inclusion and making opportunities available to students who may not be aware of them.
A representative of the Major Group for Children and Youth, describing herself as a young scientist-to-be enrolled in the technology policy programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, called for young people’s rights-based participation in science, technology and innovation within the United Nations system. Pointing out that the impacts of those disciplines are often only recognized in hindsight, she called for more efforts to realize their importance in the present and to avoid “technology lock-in” that might paralyze society if the ideas of the next generations are not adequately reflected. She asked panellists to consider ways to go beyond just mobilizing young people to involving them as decision-makers.
A representative of a Ukraine innovation park described efforts to scale up incubators and accelerators that will be led by dynamic young people.
Ms. HODGES welcomed the many efforts described by those speakers, especially those aimed at developing platforms to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into science curricula and to chip away at the obstacles to their inclusion in policy processes.
Ms. AMBOLE emphasized that “we can’t prepare students enough for the workforce because we can’t keep up with the market”. That means there is a real need for peer-driven learning, including internships, which will allow students to understand the needs of workplaces before graduating. Noting that such activities require financing support, she called on Governments to invest more in their national research funds.
Ms. ZULKEFLI said science, technology and innovation can help bring more people — especially young people — “into the sun”.
Several other stakeholder group representatives, as well as representatives from civil society and the business community, also participated.
FUNKOLA ODELEYE (Nigeria), DIYlaw, said her startup aims to reduce costs and complexities for African entrepreneurs, starting in Nigeria, by making legal services — such as business registration — both accessible and affordable. DIYlaw also partners with others to provide free legal advice and information for those who lack internet access. So far it has made legal resources available to more than 35,000 people, she said.
NINA TUSHEV (United States), Tushevs Aerials, recalling a recent United Nations report on climate change and species extinction, said unmanned aerial vehicles can be effective low-cost tools for indigenous communities to monitor their lands, collect spatial data and trigger effective Government action. Citing examples in Panama, Peru, Guyana and the Brazilian Amazon, she said that mainstreaming the use of drones can help indigenous communities address climate change, species loss and inequalities.
The forum then convened a session on the theme “Science, technology and innovation for inclusive and equitable societies”. Panellists discussed ways in which science, technology, and innovation can better support Goal 10 (reducing inequalities) and Goal 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions). In particular, the session focused on how to achieve inclusive societies in a rapidly changing world. Moderated by Huadong Guo, a member of the advisory group of 10 experts to support the Technology Facilitation Mechanism and Chairman of the Academic Committee, Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Sciences, it featured presentations by: Mahmoud Mohieldin, Senior Vice-President for the 2030 Development Agenda, United Nations Relations and Partnerships, World Bank; Bonian Golmohammadi, Secretary-General of the 16+ Forum, Sweden; Elizabeth Lockwood, CBM representative at the United Nations, International Advocacy and Alliance; and Wilbert Muruke, Manager of International Affairs, Tanzania Meteorological Agency.
Mr. GUO, noting the highly complementary nature of Goals 10 and 16, said the discussion would be guided by several questions, including ways through which science, technology and innovation can support the achievement of those Goals and good institutional examples of transparent and effective policies. He noted the key role that technology can play in improving access to Government institutions.
Mr. MOHIELDIN said there was a great deal of convergence between developing countries, but within countries, progress has been mixed. Quoting a recent article by philanthropist Bill Gates in the MIT Technology Review, he said greater concern should be paid to the impact of technology on people and sustainable development. It would be better to consider not only digital solutions, but also analogue solutions, including greater investment in health and education. Citing financial technology or “fintech” as an example, he said it has the potential to increase access to financial services at lower cost, but many of the advantages can be lost if Governments and societies are not prepared to adopt it.
Mr. GOLMOHAMMADI, noting that the 16+ Forum will convene its next annual showcase in Timor-Leste in November, pointed to the benefits of e-Government portals, such as those launched in Armenia and Georgia, through which the public can access basic services even in remote areas. For example, citizens can anonymously comment on pending legislation or even order a new passport while sipping a cup of coffee. Such portals can also dramatically reduce corruption while increasing public trust in Government services. He also noted the use of public service apps in 13 cities in Indonesia and how SMS messaging can inform vulnerable populations about, for instance, vaccination programmes in local languages.
Ms. LOCKWOOD, speaking on behalf of the persons with disabilities stakeholder group, said emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics are having an impact on people at home, at work and in their communities. That includes people with disabilities, yet they still face widespread exclusion, higher poverty and lower income levels. That comes at a cost to society. However, emerging technology can enable people with disabilities to overcome barriers, she said, emphasizing that they and their representative organizations must be included in all relevant discussions. Such technology, she added, must be available, affordable and accessible to all, in line with the principles of universal design and the motto of the disability movement: “Nothing about us without us.”
Mr. MURUKE said the definition of a developing country should be synonymous with standards that that country can achieve within its own context. For example, when global standards stand in the way of making indigenous medicine useful for all, then those people find themselves being denied the right to health. He recommended that inclusive participation be ensured in global decision-making forums for countries with inequalities, as well as the redefinition of development indices and the promotion of collaborative, transparent and equitable research and development programmes.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of the European Union drew attention to “Horizon Europe”, a €100 billion research and innovation programme that is being drawn up through dialogue among the bloc’s member States, European institutions and, primarily, citizens.
A representative of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, emphasizing that sustainable infrastructure underpins all the Goals, recommended that to achieve Goal 16 and maximize infrastructure financing, the United Nations must leverage programmes that address corruption, behaviour that costs more than $500 billion a year in the global construction and engineering industry.
The representative of Chile, underscoring both the potential and risks that technology provides, said her country is strengthening its national institutions, including with the recent establishment of a Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation. It is also developing ways to tap into data gathered at its many astronomical observatories.
A speaker from the United States asked about ways in which young people and adults can work together to reduce the technology gap and promote innovation.
The representative of Iraq wondered how technology can be harnessed to curb the dissemination of extremist ideology.
Mr. MOHAMMED invited participants to consider World Bank programmes in such areas as better governance, data collection, enhanced regulatory capacities, partnership with the private sector and enhancing the opportunity for citizens at the local level to tap into the advantages of technology.
Mr. GOLMOHAMMADI encouraged inclusive experimentation in the design and implementation of policies.
Ms. LOCKWOOD stressed the need to collect data and share it with policymakers and technology companies and for academics to ethically include persons with disabilities in their research.
Mr. MURUKE said developed and developing countries need each other to achieve the Goals. They must ensure that they advance together, with low-income countries “picking the low-hanging fruit” for the mutual benefit of all.
The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also spoke, as did speakers from several stakeholder groups.
MATTHEW GOLDBERG, BioLite HomeStove (United States), said his organization seeks to bring clean cooking and lighting to some 3 billion people who still cook over open flames around the world. BioLite reduces smoke emissions by 90 per cent and fuel use by 50 per cent, he said, noting that the stoves charge via USB port. The product has sold 25,000 across sub-Saharan Africa and India and BioLite aims to bring them to a million users in the next few years.
PADMANABAN ANANTHA GOPALAN, No Food Waste (India), recalling that he began his organization at age 21, said No Food Waste is a surplus food recovery network that collects excess food from weddings, parties, supermarkets and restaurants and brings it to those who need it in cities across India.
CHRISTINA DAHL JENSEN, It’s Our Forest Too (Denmark, with application in Cambodia), said her organization works with Prey Lang forest, which is disappearing at a rapid pace. In the past, activists from the forest were studying activities leading to forest destruction, using only pen and paper to record their findings, and were unable to file a professional report. Her group connected them with ICTs to empower them to collect data with the same accuracy as professional researchers, rending them more able to advocate for change.
The forum then convened its third panel discussion, on the theme “Science, technology and innovation for taking action to combat climate change and its impacts (SDG 13)”. Moderated by Agnes Lawrence Kijazi, Co-Chair of the advisory group of 10 experts to support the Technology Facilitation Mechanism and Director General, Tanzania Meteorological Agency, United Republic of Tanzania, it featured three panellists: Mikiko Kainuma, Senior Research Adviser, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Japan; Seth Schultz, Special Adviser to the Global Covenant of Mayors on Science and Innovation, Founder/CEO, Urban Breakthroughs, United States; and Signe Ratso, Deputy Director General, Directorate-General “Research and Innovation”, European Commission.
Ms. KIJAZI, emphasizing that the world is witnessing increasingly frequent and severe natural disasters and other impacts of climate change, said the session will explore strategies to bring the power of science, technology and innovation to bear on combating those phenomena. Goal 13 on combating climate change is a cross-cutting one with implications for all the other global development targets. She asked panellists to consider which implementation gaps call for more research and technology; as well as how science, technology and innovation can play a useful role in mitigating the effects of climate change; and which partnerships are needed to implement those actions.
Ms. KAINUMA recalled that in order to limit climate change to a 1.5°C temperature rise, it will be necessary to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. While some countries have seen a decoupling of economic growth from emissions, not all have done so. The implementation of new technologies must be carefully designed, she stressed, citing several examples of trade-offs that pose risks for both human wellness and emissions-reduction goals. Good governance and close jurisdictional coordination are critical to mitigate such trade-offs, she said, recommending such tools as a carbon tax, improvements in energy efficiency and the maximum use of co-benefits. An industrial transition is also urgently needed to accelerate the adoption of new, low-carbon technologies.
Mr. SCHULTZ recounted his work to mobilize cities, local leaders and mayors to tackle the threat of climate change. Drawing attention to the widespread phenomenon of urbanization, he noted that some 80 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) is now generated in cities. Mayors, while typically very pragmatic, nevertheless lack the information and tools needed to fight back against the climate change impacts that are striking their cities. To gain more power, mayors have gathered in various formats in recent years, adopting the Edmonton Declaration as an expression of their commitment to fight climate change, and forming the Global Covenant of Mayors which represents more than 9,000 city leaders from around the globe. “We must not forget the importance of action on the ground, and who is taking it — which is cities,” he stressed.
Ms. RATSO underlined the European Union’s commitment to achieving the targets laid out in the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda, including through the application of research and innovation. The Union aims to achieve total carbon neutrality by 2050 — a goal that no country or region can meet alone. As such, countries of the European Union have launched the “Clean Planet for All” initiative, putting in place the legislative frameworks and investments in such industries as sustainable agriculture, food systems, decarbonized fuels and bio-industries. A total 35 per cent of the bloc’s investments will be related to combating climate change, she said, adding that other programmes aim to raise awareness among citizens. “Our programme is open to the world,” she said, emphasizing that global cooperation is crucial to its success.
As the floor opened for questions and comments, several delegates described their Governments’ efforts to incorporate emerging research, technologies and innovations into the national and international fight against climate change. Representatives of civil society also offered recommendations.
The representative of Rwanda emphasized that developing countries in particular must be ready to capitalize on new technologies as they become available. Scientists in Rwanda recently joined forces with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to launch the first-ever African Air Quality and Climate Lab, which is able to sense the sources and levels of greenhouse gasses as they are released. As a result of the lab’s work, she said, policymakers and scientists are learning more about the nature of the threat and how to combat it.
The representative of Iran, noting that his country must deal with desertification, dust storms and other impacts of climate change, said the United Nations should support developing countries in combating such phenomena and asked how to increase global cooperation to address the common threat of climate change.
The representative of a university in Finland, providing an academic perspective, underlined the importance of multidisciplinary education and the need to develop a common language in the fight against climate change. While universities have traditionally produced narrowly-focused specialists — generating silos between experts in different fields — his university launched a programme to educate students in the interrelated fields of administration, engineering and social science on ways to combat the climate change threat.
Also participating were representatives of the Republic of Korea and Kazakhstan, as well as the Major Group for Children and Youth and several other sectors and foundations.
The fourth panel of the day focused on the theme “Linking science, technology and innovation of indigenous peoples, culture and traditional knowledge, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”. Moderated by José Ramón López-Portillo Romano, member of the 10-Member group of high-level representatives and Chairman, Q Element Ltd., Mexico, it featured three panellists: Freddy Mamani, Aymara architect, Bolivia; Minnie Degawan, Director of Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Program, Conservation International; and Chandra Roy-Henriksen, Chief of the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Mr. LÓPEZ-PORTILLO said modern food agriculture, medicine and technology have benefited from the “millennial contributions” of indigenous peoples who have preserved the knowledge needed to propel the modern world forward — without any reciprocity. Indeed, in a world of profound transition marked by environmental upheavals and rapid technological change, the international community must do more to provide equal opportunities and security to indigenous peoples. In addition, countries must not undervalue the importance of traditional knowledge itself in addressing global challenges, as it can serve as the bedrock for many adaptive processes. In particular, he said, the forum’s online platform must go well beyond its current pilot format and compel the entire international community to allocate the resources needed to preserve that critical knowledge.
Ms. DEGAWAN urged Member States to stop looking at indigenous peoples as mere beneficiaries of modern technologies. Indeed, indigenous peoples’ resilience in facing myriad obstacles is “proof that our knowledge systems work”, she stressed, recalling that the United Nations has also recognized their importance. During the recently-concluded Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues — whose theme was traditional knowledge — speakers underlined that “you do not protect the knowledge per se, but the people who practice it”. That means listening to indigenous communities, consulting with them, ensuring their land tenure rights and providing them with strong science education in indigenous languages. She made several related recommendations, including ensuring full respect for international standards on indigenous rights when new laws and policies are implemented.
Mr. MAMANI said Bolivia is changing rapidly, influenced in part by indigenous knowledge and grounded in the Government’s successful stabilization of the economy. Underlining the importance of architecture in meeting the needs of Bolivians, he said the city of El Alto is undergoing a physical transformation driven by indigenous colour and aesthetics. Meanwhile, architects are working in young cities to provide more housing to those who need it, also building in such a way that reduces the risks of natural disasters. Age-old traditional knowledge is respected in such work, he stressed, requesting the international community to do the same.
Ms. ROY-HENRICKSEN noted that the United Nations has agreed on a system-wide action plan to implement the Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. “Indigenous peoples are dynamic,” she said, rejecting the common perception that they are “stuck in time”. Pointing to instances where indigenous groups have driven innovation using modern science, technology and innovation, she said whereas the Arctic Sami people used to herd reindeer by foot, they now use vehicles to continue those same livelihoods. However, she warned that traditional knowledge can easily be misappropriated, meaning that it is used without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous groups who developed it.
As the floor opened for questions and comments, a representative of the Children and Youth Major Group said the proven technologies that can help understand and combat environmental challenges often grows out of traditional knowledge. Agreeing with the panellists that science, technology and innovation cannot be used to advance the Sustainable Development Goals without the informed consent of local communities, she said such collaborations require equal respect and reciprocity. In that context, she asked the panellists to explore ways to create synergies between traditional knowledge and grassroots initiatives aimed at achieving the Goals.
The representative of Mexico called on the United Nations to urgently develop a website on traditional indigenous knowledge.
Responding, Mr. MAMANI called for more efforts to bring indigenous groups together with the international community.
Ms. ROY-HENRICKSEN said the affected peoples and communities must be fully engaged and have the chance to influence decisions.
Ms. DEGAWAN agreed that “dialogue for the sake of dialoguing” should be avoided. Indigenous peoples have long innovated in full respect for the community and the environment, she said, adding that the international community should do the same.
Mr. LÓPEZ-PORTILLO said today’s powerful new technologies not only present risks but also provide opportunities to protect communities, diversity and equality. Today’s discussion reveals that a significant chance exists to create synergies between modern technology and what indigenous peoples have already preserved for millennia, he stressed.
Also participating in that discussion were representatives of the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean and other civil society organizations.
The forum then convened its final panel discussion for the day, on the theme “Supporting the implementation of the Technology Facilitation Mechanism — the way forward for joint action.” Moderated by Vaughan Turekian, Co-Chair of the advisory group of 10 experts to support the Technology Facilitation Mechanism and Executive Director, Policy and Global Affairs, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine of the United States, it featured Macharia Kamau, Principal Secretary, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Kenya; Lynn St. Amour, Chair, Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group to the Internet Governance Forum; and Joshua Phoho Setipa, Managing Director, Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries.
Mr. KAMAU congratulated the United Nations for keeping the forum alive, given that innovators “don’t have too much play in this building”. Describing science and technology as the enabler of development, he said Governments have an important role to play, providing incentives, funding and rewards that will drive the science and technology that everyone wants to see. He added that technological transfers tend to be biased, flowing to where technology already exists, when it is most needed in places where it does not exist. He also underscored the importance of STEM education, connecting with the manufacturing sector and safeguarding African intellectual property.
Ms. ST. AMOUR, sharing lessons learned by the Internet Governance Forum, said the most difficult thing has been engaging broadly and deeply with various stakeholders. Effective change means getting to the local level, she said, emphasizing the value of bottom-up and community-driven processes. She acknowledged not liking the term “Internet governance”, saying the Forum’s work deals more with the impact that the Internet can have on society.
Mr. SETIPA recalled that the Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries was established by the General Assembly in 2016 to realize a long-standing priority among those nations. Four billion people, or 55 per cent of the world’s population, are still offline, he said, adding that 20 countries account for 75 per cent of those lacking Internet access. But there is broad evidence of the benefits of Internet access, he said, pointing to a World Bank study that indicated a 1 per cent increase in GDP for every 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration.
In the ensuing discussion, the representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) underscored the significant role that the Mechanism has played, delivering as “one UN” while increasing mutual understanding. She reviewed various efforts being made by the agency, noting that its work aligns with the Mechanism’s efforts.
The representative of Panama, emphasizing that achieving the Goals requires building capacities, discussed a Spanish-language regional technology workshop hosted by her country.
The representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said there are more than 570 million family farms in the world, working 75 per cent of the agricultural land. A recent international symposium organized by the agency shed light on the importance of agricultural innovation and the central role of family farms in sustainable food production.
Mr. SETIPA said the Technology Bank is undertaking a technological needs assessment that can act as a bridge with the Mechanism. It is also organizing a series of regional and national events aimed at building the capacities of national academies of science. Having strong interlocuters will make it possible to advance the science, technology and innovation agenda, he added.
Ms. ST. AMOUR, pointing to the common ground between the Mechanism and the Internet Governance Forum, said they should explore opportunities in more detail.
Speakers from several stakeholder groups also took the floor.